Why the Biggest Failures Are the Most Fluent

If you’re struggling to become fluent in English there is something you can do right now to speed up your progress: start failing more.

Look, the only way that you’re going to increase your fluency in English is to practice, and if you’re not making any mistakes this means that you’re not practicing enough.

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Every successful language learner out there has made thousands of mistakes to get where they are today, and if you want to join them then you will have to make mistakes just like them.

The most common situations that you will use English are: in the classroom, while traveling and with English speakers in your home country. There is absolutely no reason for you to be afraid of making mistakes in the classroom, since by being there you are acknowledging that you are not perfect and need to learn. Your teacher should be sympathetic to your level and not demand perfection from you. If they get mad at you for making mistakes, you should consider getting a new teacher.

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When you travel abroad and speak with native English speakers, there is no need for you to be afraid of making mistakes while talking to them. Most people don’t enter into conversations looking to find mistakes in the way the other person speaks, we enter conversations to communicate and exchange meaning. People you talk to abroad will be more concerned with trying to help you out than judging you for your English.

And what about while you are in your home country speaking English? Who can really expect you to speak perfect English while you are living in a country where that language isn’t spoken as a first language? Most of the people you talk with in English will probably be in the same situation as you, and they are probably more concerned with how their English sounds than how your English sounds.

You should definitely not be concerned with how your English sounds to foreigners. You’re just not that important to them for them to spend much time thinking about how bad your English is. They will probably forget about you a few minutes after talking with you. Most people are too concerned with their own problems and insecurities to spend time thinking about other people’s problems.

Grammar is the last thing you should be worried about when learning to speak English. You don’t need to have perfect grammar in order to communicate with someone in English. Native speakers aren’t going to judge you for having bad grammar, they are going to be more focused on understanding your meaning and continuing the conversation. As long as you speak clearly and confidently, it doesn’t matter if you use the wrong article, adjective ending or sentence order.

By the way, the only way you can avoid making mistakes is to not speak at all. By following this approach, you will save yourself from the temporary embarrassment of saying something incorrectly, but you will never learn anything this way. We are afraid of making mistakes because in our ancestral past, making mistakes often meant death. Luckily in our modern society the mistakes we make in our day-to-day lives won’t cost us our lives, and we certainly aren’t at risk of death when making mistakes in English.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but you should try making as many mistakes as possible. If you are making mistakes that means you are actually speaking English and improving. If you aren’t making mistakes every day then you aren’t speaking enough. Of course, you shouldn’t intentionally make mistakes, and you should try to be aware of your mistakes so you can learn from them and improve your skills.

Everybody makes mistakes, even native speakers of English. Nobody is born speaking perfect English; fluency is something that takes time and hard work to achieve. Show me any human being and I’ll show you someone who has made hundreds, if not thousands of language mistakes in their lifetime.

So don’t be discouraged by your mistakes. Learn to embrace them and value them for the important role they play in your learning process.

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